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Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison Denise A. Hall Eastern Kentucky University

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison

Introduction In our society today, prison staff are often faced with a great deal of obstacles. Among these obstacles exists the issue of diversity. Within this culture, there appears to be a lack of diverse staff employed within prisons across the United States. This diversity issues causes a disproportionate imbalance between staff and the many minors housed in prisons. When diversity related issues are not addressed by the leadership, the staff morale, safety, and security, within the prison is often challenged. This can cause a stressful work place and huge over-head due to the inability to retain quality staff. Diversity involves the ways in which an individual perceives himself, and how the individual perceives others. Therefore, diversity among staff encompasses age, gender, race, personality, ethnic group, education, and so much more. Additionally, the way an individual perceives something or someone can affect the way they interact with each other. The leadership of the prison should always make it a priority to address the staff issues of diversity and communication to ensure that the working environment is stressfree, adaptable, and successfully. The most successfully prisons are willing to deal with staff diversity issues by recognizing the need for trainings, resources, seminars, and communication to properly manage diversity related issues in the prison.

Existing Problems There are approximately 13,000 state and federal prisons in the United States. The Missouri Department of Corrections indicates they constantly are reminded that Approximately 50 percent of all people incarcerated or under some form of supervision are people of color. Yet

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison


most of the individuals responsible for custody, supervision, or support functions within corrections are of the majority race. (Braun, McKinney 1995). The question then becomes, Why isnt a comparable diversity in the corrections workforce? Their response is, We cant find qualifies minority applicant or minority women. The Illinois Department of Corrections explains that they have recently experienced a huge number of adult incarcerated that are unemployed, uneducated, and have mental health issues. Among these individuals are the majority minorities. This Department has recognized the need to make changes within their organization by stating, The increase the numbers of offenders in our detention centers, jails, and correctional centers has resulted in similar problems for correctional professionals. The number of illiterate and unemployed continues to increase among the offenders population. Individuals committed to the correctional system are increasingly experiencing serious emotional and healthcare problems which often include severe alcohol and substance abuse. This fact presents a variety of issues that affect employees and inmates. Unless there are systems in place to deal with the issue, it may not get the attention and focus it demands. (Peters, 1994). The mere fact that diversity related issues in the workplace is actually exist is evident. For example, in 1971, there was a huge riot at Attica Prison. It was later discovered that much of the riot exist due to tensions because a predominately Caucasian prison staff was overseeing the prison population of which the majority of the inmates were African American and Hispanic. Cultural differences and lack of understanding among the correctional force were cited as primary grievances among rioting prisoners, and subsequent investigations conformed that these

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison


issues were indeed a precipitating factor in the riot and a legitimate problem in management of prisons (Irwin 1980, Kramer 1991).

Implementation
Having a cultural diverse staff in a prison promotes an atmosphere of cohesion and collaboration among the workforce. The inmates can be recipients of this culture, therefore reducing the possibility of workplace stress and potential rioting. When inmates feel they are not treated fairly, the outcome can become violence towards each other and staff. It has been argued that active management of racial diversity in the workplace is necessary (Cox, 1994; Cox and Blake1991: Kramer 1991). Training staff regarding diversity could assist with communication and anxiety about working with multicultural coworkers. Additionally, the recruitment of quality employees is essential. The Department of Illinois states, The Department of Corrections is required to have a full-time affirmative action officer and an annual affirmative action plan. This plan, among other things, establishes the goals relating to the employment of minorities for The Department of Corrections. (Peters, 1994).

Conclusion
The overall success of a prison is dependent on its ability to have a safe, secure, and diverse working environment. Linguistic skills and cultural sensitivity are extremely important in the jail intake process, where language and cultural understanding may ensure the personal safety of staff and inmates. These concerns are changing staff development policies and broadening traditional basis for recruitment. With large numbers of prisons who are members of minority groups, jails must increase staff diversity. Jail administrators must develop a workforce

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison


that reflects our national community (Camp, Saylor, and Wright, 2001). With this said, the more we make it a priority to know and understand each other, the better we can work together and make positive connects with one another in the workplace.

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison

References Blake. S., Cox, T.H. (1991). Managing Cultural Diversity: Implications for Organizational Competitiveness. Academy of Management Executive 5 (3): 45-56.

Braun. P.J., McKinney, A.G.(1995).Facing Tomorrow today-Diversity and Staff Development in Corrections. Corrections Today, 57(3) 101-108.

Camp, S. D., Saylor, W. G., and Wright, K. N. (2001). Racial Diversity of Correctional Workers and Inmates: Organizational Commitment, Teamwork and Worker Efficacy in Prisons. Justice Quarterly, 18(2).

Irwin, J.(1980). Prisons in Turmoil. Boston: Little and Brown.

Kramer, R. M.(1991). Intergroup Relations and Organizational Dilemmas: The Role of Categorization Processes in Research in Organizational Behavior. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press. 191-228

Peters, H.A. (1994). The Illinois Department of Corrections: Educational Commitment to Minority Issues. Journal of Correctional Education, 4(2), 108-110.

Lack of Staff Diversity in Prison